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Doing some work, I got a Raspberry Pi to run on solar batteries and partially charge up an external battery for night time use; adding a few more solar cells would fully charge the battery and run the Raspberry Pi 24/7. Currently the solar panel is foldable into a neat package the size of a small paperback novel.

 

But this got me thinking. A few years ago at a Google/Linux conference which I spoke for the Brooklyn Linux User's Group, there was talk and demonstration of the "1 child/1 laptop" machine (aka the $100 laptop) for third world countries. It ran off a tiny battery, cranked generator and solar batteries in something the size of a netbook. It used a CF as a hard drive and ran a branched off version of Red Hat Linux. As far as a program went, it was semi successful as third world schools and their students got the laptops but in some cases the local war lords stole them. Man, I f-ing swear.... Grrrr....

 

What would it take to solar power a laptop like a Powerbook or a PC Laptop? I would like it that at least the solar panel is either as big as the LCD Display or folds up to that size for easy storage. The laptop itself would be as small a possible, like a iBook, PowerBook Duo or ThinkPad 560; of course the laptop needs to be modified with an SSD because the hard drive alone takes up a lot of power. Would a Netbook be worth solarizing?

 

What other options would you think needs to be done to solarize a laptop? Solar panels are cheap on Ebay if you know what to look for. The rest is on you constructing it.

Edited by Elfen
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I goofed around with this idea back in the day.

 

what I ended up doing was taking a solar panel to power the laptop and at the same time I removed the backlight from the LCD display.

 

The sunlight reflected off of the solar panel would bounce into the LCD to create my light as well as power the machine.

 

This was in the p2 days.

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CCFL consumes more energy than HDD. (forget 7200 r.p.m.)

IEEE 1394 is a "Hot Interconnect", power guzzler. You should physically remove its PHY and power supply circuitry, if intending to use solar.

 

OLPC XO uses LED backlight. Modular, so that smashed panel can be replaced, without wasting lamp. OLPC XO target power consumption was less than five watt.

 

The simple fact is, most laptops are not low-power. They are mobile, yes, but low-power-consumption was not the goal to engineer. All but early iBooks are not low power. All PowerPC G4 PowerBooks are not low power. Nineteen-nineties PowerBooks are good candidates: they are fanless, not power monsters, and battery technology has advanced a lot since then.

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But this got me thinking. A few years ago at a Google/Linux conference which I spoke for the Brooklyn Linux User's Group, there was talk and demonstration of the "1 child/1 laptop" machine (aka the $100 laptop) for third world countries.

 

...

 

What would it take to solar power a laptop like a Powerbook or a PC Laptop?

 

You mean a eMate?

 

On topic, you'll want a solar panel that can provide twice the total wattage that the computer will ever need. This ensures ample power to charge the battery and run the computer at the same time, whilst still having enough for non-ideal circumstances, such as:

 

- Winter time

- Low sun angle

- Cloudy days

- Non-optimal angle relative to sun or strong light source

- Dirt on the panel

- The fact that you'll have to have a plastic cover over the panel because glass won't work very well, despite its much better light transmission capabilities

- The panel's decay over time (solar panels are typically rated to supply a certain power wattage, but after a certain time, they drop to about 80% of their original output, and that's about the time the warranty runs out)

- Stickers that uninformed users will put on the panel

 

... and so on. Ideally you'd use 3rd (4th in design phase yet?) generation panels but those are costly. Most solar panels of the monocrystaline form have an efficiency range of about 12-15% at best. Polycrystaline panels are cheaper but are not as efficient and take up more space.

 

It's certainly doable. We've been making ultra-low power gadgets and other stuff like that for 30 years now. (Not I, just the industry at large.)

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Solar? Laptop? Meh, we carry around all the energy we need . . .

 

Go LunchBox!

http://www.lonesentry.com/manuals/handbook-japanese-military/pics/348-japanese-transceiver.jpg

 

Hand pump flashlight = hand pump rPi. ;)

 

 

 

< . . . looks around . . . computer geeks are too sedentary as is, a little exerc . . . NAH! :p >

Edited by Trash80toHP_Mini
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Two things that might be of interest!

 

1. The Norhtec Gecko Edubook, which is essentially a really fast 586 or 686 which will run Linux, and can do so using AA batteries. It will also run Windows XP, but as you may know, I do not recommend Windows XP for networked computers. (I also have an IBM Z50 with an AA battery pack, but that's a lot less modern, and is basically a Windows CE version of the eMate, sort of.)

 

2. There's also the Sol laptop, which is more modern, using anything from an Intel Atom to one of the new Core M chips. It's also more expensive, but you basically buy it, take it out of the box, put it in a window and then start running linux or windows 7/8, so it's up to you to decide if you like that sort of plug-and-play-ness. Engadget did a hands-on a few months ago, too.

 

For me, the question is, are you just living off the grid and want "a computer" or are you looking to have all the hardware contained within a reasonably portable "laptop"? The newest small $200 Windows computers all use Micro USB charging and most of them get over eight hours of battery on their own, so you could just get a solar charger that uses Micro USB.

 

If you're willing to make an installation with batteries and all that, it's more about how much space you're wiling to take up and how low-power a regular computer you can find. Even then, using some car batteries to charge one of the modern tiny Bay Trail laptops (or even, say, a bigger laptop from System76 or a desktop) would be a really neat project, especially if you're in a sunny place.

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This is not to live of the grid, but when there is no access to the grid and away from the vehicle like camping, at the beach or the park. At best with a fully set of charged batteries, an iBook can go an hour or two, four if one is using an CF or SSD. Advertised battery life was never what I met them to be. The MacBook Air has an advertised battery life of 6 hours, I never met one that did that. At most I have ever seen was 2.5 hours. But an iBook I fixed up and put a CF/SSD into does run for up to 3+ hours on a good battery. But after that, either I have to carry more batteries, use a "Battery extender" which is a flat battery pack that fits on the bottom of the laptop and connects to the power port, find a nearby outlet, carry a generator or a solar panel. The Solar Panel seems like the best option (besides freaking NYC/NYS is passing laws that limits the use of portable gas powered generators... Grrrr...).

 

This is just an idea I want to test, and have all winter to build.

Edited by Elfen
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I get about six out of my MBA, AirPort off since I don't browse with it. Brightness on automatic, same as the keyboard. That's the original model with a new OWC battery.

 

The new ones are advertised at 9 hours for the 11" and 12 hours for the 13", and from what I've heard those estimates are conservative...I know a friend got 14+ hours from his new 13". With the i7...

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I run my Performa 6360 and 15" LCD on solar. Alas, the kit involved isn't exactly portable! It's attached to my cabin/workshop out on the back of the property. It involves a 65w polycrystalline panel I was gifted, a charge controller, a 20+ year old deep cycle flooded cell D8 battery that weighs about 150lbs, and a small inverter. I run some CFL and LED lighting from the inverter in addition to the computer on my workbench. I have a couple cigarette lighter style plugs and USB charging ports running off the 12v side of things too. As I don't use energy every day, the charge controller is able to maintain the battery even in the winter months.

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The MacBook Air has an advertised battery life of 6 hours, I never met one that did that. At most I have ever seen was 2.5 hours. But an iBook I fixed up and put a CF/SSD into does run for up to 3+ hours on a good battery.

That is really sad. I used to push four hours with my (very cheap low end model from 2009 keep in mind) HP DV4-1225DX while internetting on a new high capacity battery, and that had a terribly wasteful AMD CPU. IDK what my Thinkpad T510(from 2010 or something mind you) would do with a new battery and I never actually got around to timing the life of it's worn one but I am pretty sure I am still getting around four hours with the same sort of use as DV4. (both using the same Intel 330 240GB SSD and Intel 7260 AC wifi card)

Of course DV4's batt started taking a turn for the worse when I replaced it as primary portable so that only lasted a bit over four years.

 

There are new computers that can legitimately run for more than a few hours on a new battery, so please do not judge modern computers based on an old MBA.

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I run my Performa 6360 and 15" LCD on solar...

Where's the "LIKE" Button to press for this?!!

 

 

There are new computers that can legitimately run for more than a few hours on a new battery, so please do not judge modern computers based on an old MBA.

I try not too.

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To add to what TheWhiteFalcon says: The current 13-inch MacBook Air with the i5 CPU gets above what Apple states it should (12 hours) in most formal testing. In light-usage informal testing, it's good to go for about 17 hours of continuous, screen-on usage if you're just using Safari and, say, Pages (or another light Apple app.)

 

If your goal is just to stay away from outlets for a day, there are already dozens of good solutions.

 

If you're just looking for something with which to write, the Microsoft Surface 2 is probably your best bet in the PC world, at least for double-digit battery life. Though, the HP Stream 11 and Asus X205 are each $200 and claim 8 and 12 hours of life, respectively. There's a car charger for the SUrface 2 and the Stream 11 and Asus X205 each use USB chargers, so there should be a variety of options for recharging those devices based on collected solar energy.

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To add to what TheWhiteFalcon says: The current 13-inch MacBook Air with the i5 CPU gets above what Apple states it should (12 hours) in most formal testing. In light-usage informal testing, it's good to go for about 17 hours of continuous, screen-on usage if you're just using Safari and, say, Pages (or another light Apple app.)

I am not disputing what is advertised and what others experienced with their battery powered systems, but personally I never met a machine that lived up to those claims. The key word you hit upon, Cory5412 - "Light-Usage."

 

Before I retired from the school system, schools bought laptops thinking that students can use them non-stop 9AM - 3PM, 6 straight hours without charging, as advertised. But the truth is, they only lasted 3 hours or less. OK, they were doing a lot more than just writing assignments. They had to accessed the school wireless network, the internet, up/download data/assignments and do multimedia presentations. The Computer, Science and other after school clubs also did things with the laptops from the hours of 3PM to 5PM - adding 2 more hours. Many schools had to double their orders so that students can have a morning laptop and an afternoon laptop, which defeated the purpose of the 1 laptop per child mantra schools had.

 

Plus improper charging of the laptop's batteries killed the battery's life in many laptops so that they could only function for a single 45 minute period.

 

Personally, I'm not one of those light laptop users. I run several apps at the same time and constantly access the hard drive or network. For me, battery life is in the best of conditions is a couple of hours. I'm pretty sure that if I get several nuclear pacemaker batteries to make a battery pac for a laptop, though such batteries are rated for 10+ years, I'd probably run it down in less than a month.

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Well, most people, even with heavy usage, get the modern MBA's battery life claims. Remember, the newer models have very power efficient Haswell chips, Mavericks and Yosemite are designed to be very power efficient, they use low-power DDR3 memory and fast, power efficient flash storage. They also have efficient LED displays.

 

Apple had some estimation issues in the past (when they used the 'industry standard' tests, their new tests tend to be conservative as to what you can expect. The iPad Air is rated for 10 hours, but even in demanding tests most people pulled about 12:30 or so from the battery.

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I have a rare Newton solar power supply, capable of running an eMate, and charging its battery at the same time. Sitting in the garden, writing in the shade, cool drink in hand, but with the solar panel sitting out in the full sun, the time passes more pleasantly than when chained to the office desk. Even the battery charges quickly, and no mains electricity is used in the chanrging cycle. Pretty nifty for mid-90s technology.

 

I have on occasion written academic essays on that eMate. It has the keyboard, crucially, and it's possible to add auto-text functionality and a few other "extras" to NewtonWorks, making this setup surprisingly pleasant to use in a self-denyingly acetic sort of way. Someone with the will could even filter text produced through tools like pandoc markdown at a later stage to make the little machine more "current," as 'twere, but don't think I'll go there myself. Tools from the past, i.e., NewtonWorks and NCU, do the business nicely when called upon from the future....

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Yes, the English language is essentially the same as it was when these Macs (and the eMate) were current, and will probably remain quite so, as long as we continue to communicate (yes, it will evolve, but the basic structural elements of the language will probably not change much for the foreseeable future, as it really hasn't changed much over the last 200 years or so (or so it seems from some VERY informal research in Wikipedia).

 

c

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I am not disputing what is advertised and what others experienced with their battery powered systems, but personally I never met a machine that lived up to those claims. The key word you hit upon, Cory5412 - "Light-Usage."

"Heavy Use" on an iBook (or even a MacBook Pro from, say, 2009) is literally nothing to a current low end MacBook Air, and the 17h estimations are with Pages and Safari open. If you restrict yourself to Apple's applications (or other heavily Mac-friendly apps), you'll get really good battery life on it because OS X is just really great at managing energy.

 

Plus, if you drive the MacBook Air really hard, you should still get over five hours out of it. Like, completely full load on the GPU and CPU and full brightness for five hours is still impressive. It's not "the advertised" but also, if you're driving a computer at full-bore all the time, the MacBook Air was the wrong computer to get from the start, and unfortunately, running it off of its own internal battery for very long was never going to happen.

 

Fortunately for those of us more or less within the band of MacBook Air users, in the course of fifteen years since the original iBook came out in 1999, battery technology has changed a lot and charging batteries "correctly" on Macs, iPads, most tablets, and some premium Windows devices (Microsoft's in particular) matters a lot less than it did previously.

 

Also, (again, what TheWhiteFalcon said) solid state media, better screen technology, better wireless technology, and a whole list of things mean that today's mobile computers are just more power efficient to begin with.

 

AnandTech's MacBook Air battery testing: http://www.anandtech.com/show/7180/apple-macbook-air-11-2013-review/2

 

I haven't found a formalized review of the two cheapest long-battery Windows computers you can buy today, the aforementioned HP Stream 11 and Asus X205, but they're so inexpensive I am close to just buying one myself to see what they're like. The dual- and quad-core Intel Atom chips used in these machines are extremely impressive compared to the netbooks of yore, and we're so very close to the point where $200 machines have the same specs and are as fast as my $3000-or-so notebook from 2009.

 

Battery life is one of those interesting things where there's different strategies to it. Apple's has (for a few years, at leat) been based around efficiency, and if you showed the me of 1999 an 11- or 13-inch MacBook Air and told me about it, I would almost certainly not have believed it. (Though, maybe somebody who was slightly older than I was in 1999 would have been able to extrapolate that as a possibility. The original iBook completely blew my mind because up to that point, laptops weren't something that often got talked about for their really impressive battery life.)

 

I have on occasion written academic essays on that eMate. It has the keyboard, crucially, and it's possible to add auto-text functionality and a few other "extras" to NewtonWorks, making this setup surprisingly pleasant to use in a self-denyingly acetic sort of way.

For a while, I was using an IBM WorkPad Z50 as my main note-taking and writing computer, after my main ThinkPad's battery had totally kicked it, just after I got the iPad but became unimpressed with it for just a few reasons, but before I dove all the way back in with OneNote on my ThinkPad when I got it a new battery.

 

My favorite part was probably saving formatted RTF files onto CF cards and plugging them into my modern ThinkPad, opening them in Word or WordPad, and then still being able to bring them back to the Z50 if need be.

 

Now and again I consider dragging it out once more.

 

Yes, the English language is essentially the same as it was when these Macs (and the eMate) were current, and will probably remain quite so,

That makes literally no sense. I could write German or Italian on my WorkPad (or on an Apple II) and it would do so as well as when it was new. Until we switch to different characters, or the differences in language and other things that do exist (like, new currency symbols in some localities) become a big problem, text processing will always be one of those things that "works the way it did when it was new." -- This isn't really what this thread is about, but for the oldest of computer systems that's both a blessing and a curse.

 

The issue isn't ever that "oh noes, English is different!" The issue is almost always that file formats are different or a networked operating system is woefully insecure or that (in the case of OpenSTEP) even with networking there's almost nothing on the system that'll produce files compatible with anything else.

 

To continue my thought from my quote of beachycove's text -- while a newton or workpad is perfectly capable of accepting English text as input (presuming you're okay adding to their spell-checker dictionaries,simply turning off editing tools, or using a plain text editor) I personally question whether or not it's still the best tool for the job, or maybe more importantly, whether or not it should be used for those tasks, just because it can.

 

For me personally: The main reason I don't drag out my Z50 is because why should I bother with RTF files on a CF card when I can just use my Surface RT, and save DOCX files directly to my local SharePoint server, sync up my OneNote notebook, and if need be, check my e-mail on it. It lasts around 8-10 hours on an average day and for what a Surface RT is even capable of (Office, Internet Explorer, and tablet apps) that's all the more time I need. The battery cover for the Surface 2 approximately doubles that life, in case I was in super adventure mode, but I'm not often.

 

So, I guess it depends on if you're lookign for the experience of employing a certain technology, regardless of what affects that has on your productivity or workflow, or just getting stuff done in the coffee shop.

 

That said, I think a lot of people think that these concepts are worth looking at combining, and so the Hemingwrite exists: http://hemingwrite.com/ -- if you're just writing, it gets a few weeks of battery life, has an outdoor-usable screen, and synchronizes with dropbox, evernote, google drive, or whatever.

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The less power the device consumes, the less money you have to lay out on solar panels.  Seeing how expensive panels are, it's worth optimizing the device.  If you want a full computing environment and OS X, the Air is almost certainly your best bet.

There are commercially available solar kits (with/without external batteries) which are rated to run/charge MacBooks/MacBook Pros:  I forget the name of the company/ies selling them, but I'm hunting up that information for myself, so I'll repost it here.

That Hemingwrite is hella neat, Cory5412.  Hope it launches at a reasonable price.

Along similar lines, if you just need a machine for writing or limited computing, one could look at a number of vintage systems: Amstrad NC-100 Notepad, Cambridge z88, Tandy TRS-80 Model 100, Psion 5MX, Apple eMate, Alphasmart Dana.

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I wanted to follow up on this, because I stated at least twice in this thread that the Asus X205ma is powered by Micro USB. I was looking at the product's web page and it looks more like it's a square, reversible connector, not necessarily Micro USB. My apologies for that confusion. I have yet to see a formalized review of the Asus X205ma, which is now available at Best Buy and the Microsoft Store for $180, minus the benefit of the Office365 subscription. It looks like it may be available at Staples for $99 on Black Friday.

 

It would also appear I was wrong about the Stream 11 charger, meaning the Asus T100 is probably the closest you're going to come at this exact moment to a "full computer" that's charged via Micro USB.

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